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Young participants from a previous "Discovering the Mojave Desert" program examine the shell of a desert tortoise. "Animals of the Mojave Desert," which is open to children ages 8 to 16, will take place from 3 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 25.

Program introduces youths to desert animals

BARSTOW • They’re out there someplace, hiding under a rock or desert shrub, or they might be found basking in a small pool of water where the usually subterranean Mojave River briefly pokes through the surface.

Two of the Barstow area’s rarely seen residents, the desert tortoise and Mohave tui chub fish, will be the focus of “Animals of the Mojave Desert.” The event, which will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 25, kicks off a five-month after-school program co-sponsored by the Desert Discovery Center and Main Street Murals. The free program is open to youth ages 8 to 16.

“It’s a hands-on learning program,” said Jane Laraman-Brockhurst, who heads the Desert Discovery Center’s education programs. “This is all about learning about responsible stewardship for the land.”

During the first event, participants will get a chance to touch a desert tortoise and learn how it spends most of its life in burrows to avoid the desert’s extreme weather conditions. The program’s other featured animal, the tui chub, is a 10-inch minnow-like fish native to the West.

But the desert tortoise and tui chub are just two members of the Mojave Preserve’s unique fauna. Participants also will learn about jackrabbit and cottontail rabbits, desert bighorn sheep, lizards like the desert iguana and chuckwalla, snakes like the Mojave green rattlesnake and red racer, birds like the California Quail, Cooper’s Hawk and Greater Roadrunner, and insects and arachnids like the large desert tarantula.

Due to ongoing renovations at the Desert Discovery Center, the Jan. 25 program will be held at the National Park Service, 2701 Barstow Road. Future events will include one- and two-day trips to notable desert locales, including Hole in the Wall in the Mojave Preserve, the Living Desert in Palm Desert and a special trip to El Mirage, where the youth will clean up trash and try land-sailing.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Laraman-Brockhurst said.

Professionals from the Bureau of Land Management and the National Parks Service will participate in the education program.

The program also includes a creative arts element, said Laraman-Brockhurst, who also serves as president of Main Street Murals. Participants will express what they have learned through poetry, creative writing, drawing, sketching and painting. The centerpiece will be a mural depicting the “Animals of the High Desert” that will appear on the wall of a Barstow donut shop.

Established in 2005, the Desert Discovery Center at 831 Barstow Road consists of a 7,000-square-foot facility, which is surrounded by 12 acres of public land. Partners include the BLM, National Park Service, Barstow Unified School District, Barstow Community College, Mojave River Valley Museum, City of Barstow and other organizations. The center houses the 6,070-pound “Old Woman Meteorite.”

A $700,000 renovation project began last year on the center, which could reopen as early as late February, according to Laraman-Brockhurst.

“It has such a positive effect on all the students,” she said. “It’s really something we want to celebrate.”

For more information on the “Animals of the Mojave Desert” program and future after-school youth events, call Laraman-Brockhurst at (760) 220-4351 or visit or to download a registration form. Completed forms can be dropped off at the Barstow Library, 304 E. Buena Vista St., Barstow.

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